Walk the talk: gender equality in the African Union
As new United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) initiatives and development agendas commence in 2015, women throughout Africa are suffering from a disproportionate lack of resources, access to education, health and legal services, and violence and discrimination. This edition of the bi-annual publication Walk the Talk, jointly produced and published by the African Union Commission and UN Women, seeks to show the commitment and leadership of the two institutions in advancing gender equality in Africa across a number of sectors, and to document and share lessons and successful case studies for others to learn from. Articles covering health, education, peace and security, agriculture, and economic empowerment describe inspiring victories, such as the passing of legislation banning child marriage in Malawi, using information and communication technologies to empower girls in Ethiopia, and providing rehabilitation and counselling services for women and girl refugees affected by sexual violence in Cameroon.
One of the case studies highlights an effective strategy for women to overcome the barriers they face in terms of workers rights, access to resources and services, and increased empowerment and participation: collective action. In Ethiopia, more than 1000 women have joined women’s cooperatives and become partners with the UN World Food Programme. An initiative called Purchase for Progress (P2P) pooled the women’s resources to buy maize in bulk, but cultural beliefs and gender stereotypes presented significant challenges for actually increasing women’s involvement in agricultural associations. To remedy this, P2P framed the initiative around the women, teaching trainers who could then teach women in their homes, and beginning with the basics: literacy. From this foundation, the programme could then move on to business skills, and the result has seen both increased productivity and community empowerment.